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Editorial Roundup: US

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

March 31

The Japan News on countries working together to combat the new coronavirus pandemic:

There are limits to what any one country can do when it comes to responses to the new coronavirus. Unless the spread of infections can be contained worldwide, there will be no hope for putting an end to the pandemic, or for restoring the economy. International cooperation is more urgently needed than ever before.

More than 700,000 people have been infected with the virus globally. The U.S. caseload surged to the largest in the world, passing China with far over 100,000 cases. Infections have also been spreading in emerging and developing countries, including South Africa, Brazil and Thailand.

It is important to avoid a situation in which outbreaks of the virus swing back and forth between developed and developing countries. Areas in developing countries hit by poverty or conflict suffer poor hygienic environments. In places that lack water supply infrastructure, residents cannot even wash their hands well, which is a basic way of avoiding infections.

The United Nations has called on countries to offer resources worth 220 billion, for such purposes as providing medical supplies and developing facilities for hand washing. Developed countries have to focus on supporting developing countries while at the same time bringing under control the spread of infections in their own countries. It is essential to establish a framework to share information on the virus and treatment methods.

Humans have fought against infectious diseases such as the plague and smallpox in the past. However, social environments have drastically changed since then. The latest crisis poses a threat that humans have never experienced before, at a time when the world has become more globalized, developed transportation networks and entered into a digital age in which people are connected through social networking services.

The virus can drastically spread at great speed, reaching much wider areas as more and more people travel. Also, it has become easier for people to be exposed to false information through social media. A major question is how to respond to the virus in a way that suits the realities of today’s world.

Many countries have banned arrivals from certain other countries and imposed lockdowns. Halting people’s movements as an emergency measure in a bid to prevent an explosive increase in the number of infections is an inevitable step. However, in today’s global economy, every country is facing an immeasurable impact that lockdowns are having on the economy and people’s lives.

Anxiety and fear also trigger discriminatory feelings. If countermeasures against infections are thoroughly implemented, it could undermine the stability and vitality of society. This is surely a common dilemma that all countries face. It has become more important than ever for the governments and international organizations to promptly disclose information and implement scientific measures in a calm manner.

As a superpower, the United States has a responsibility to show leadership. If President Donald Trump describes the current fight against the outbreak as “war,” it is not the time for him to concentrate on attacking China and critics of his administration.

Since 2016, when Trump was elected for U.S. president and Britain voted to leave the European Union, divisions in the world have become deeper. Political confusion in the United States and Europe, which are normally expected to support the international order, have hampered countries from working together on global issues, as has the spread of unilateralism.

How can countries contain the harmful effects of lockdowns and “open” their cities at an appropriate time? Through a long fight against the virus, the world must regain its solidarity and build the groundwork for a joint response to the crisis.

Online: https://the-japan-news.com/

March 30

The Boston Globe on President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic:

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold,” wrote W.B. Yeats in 1919. A century later, it’s clear: The epicenter cannot hold. Catastrophic decisions in the White House have doomed the world’s richest country to a season of untold suffering.

The United States, long a beacon of scientific progress and medical innovation with its world-class research institutions and hospitals, is now the hub of a global pandemic that has infected at least 745,000 people and already claimed more than 35,000 lives worldwide. Now that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States — more than 140,000 — has surpassed that of any other nation, Americans are consigned for the coming weeks to watching the illness fell family members and friends, and to fearing for their own fate as they watch death tolls rise.

While the spread of the novel coronavirus has been aggressive around the world, much of the profound impact it will have here in the United States was preventable. As the American public braces itself for the worst of this crisis, it’s worth remembering that the reach of the virus here is not attributable to an act of God or a foreign invasion, but a colossal failure of leadership.

The outbreak that began in China demanded a White House that could act swiftly and competently to protect public health, informed by science and guided by compassion and public service. It required an administration that could quickly deploy reliable tests around the nation to isolate cases and trace and contain the virus’s spread, as South Korea effectively did, as well as to manufacture and distribute scarce medical supplies around the country. It begged for a president of the United States to deliver clear, consistent, scientifically sound messages on the state of the epidemic and its solutions, to reassure the public amid their fear, and to provide steady guidance to cities and states. And it demanded a leader who would put the country’s well-being first, above near-term stock market returns and his own reelection prospects, and who would work with other nations to stem the tide of COVID-19 cases around the world.

What we have instead is a president epically outmatched by a global pandemic. A president who in late January, when the first confirmed coronavirus case was announced in the United States, downplayed the risk and insisted all was under control. A president who, rather than aggressively test all those exposed to the virus, said he’d prefer not to bring ashore passengers on a contaminated cruise ship so as to keep national case numbers (artificially) low. A president who, consistent with his mistrust and undermining of scientific fact, has misled the public about unproven cures for COVID-19, and who baited-and-switched last week about whether the country ought to end social distancing to open up by Easter, and then, on Saturday, about whether he’d impose a quarantine on New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut ...

Timing is everything in pandemic response: It can make the difference between a contained local outbreak that endures a few weeks and an uncontrollable contagion that afflicts millions. The Trump administration has made critical errors over the past two months, choosing early on to develop its own diagnostic test, which failed, instead of adopting the World Health Organization’s test — a move that kneecapped the US coronavirus response and, by most public health experts’ estimation, will cost thousands if not hundreds of thousands of American lives. Rather than making the expected federal effort to mobilize rapidly to distribute needed gowns, masks, and ventilators to ill-equipped hospitals and to the doctors and nurses around the country who are left unprotected treating a burgeoning number of patients, the administration has instead been caught outbidding individual states (including Massachusetts) trying to purchase medical supplies. It has dragged its heels on invoking the Defense Production Act to get scarce, sorely needed ventilators and masks into production so that they can be distributed to hospitals nationwide as they hit their peaks in the cycle of the epidemic. It has left governors and mayors in the lurch, begging for help. ....

It’s not too much for Americans to ask of their leaders that they be competent and informed when responding to a crisis of historic proportions. Instead, they have a White House marred by corruption and incompetence, whose mixed messages roil the markets and rock their sense of security. Instead of compassion and clarity, the president, in his near-daily addresses to the nation, embodies callousness, self-concern, and a lack of compass. Dangling unverified cures and possible quarantines in front of the public like reality TV cliffhangers, he unsettles rather than reassures. The pandemic reveals that the worst features of this presidency are not merely late-night comedy fodder; they come at the cost of lives, livelihoods, and our collective psyche.

Many pivotal decision points in this crisis are past us, but more are still to come. For our own sake, every American should be hoping for a miraculous turnaround — and that the too-little, too-late strategy of the White House task force will henceforth at least prevent contagion and economic ruin of the grandest scale. But come November, there must be a reckoning for the lives lost, and for the vast, avoidable suffering about to ensue under the president’s watch.

Online: https://www.bostonglobe.com/

March 30

The Wall Street Journal on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments on President's Trump handling of the coronavirus pandemic:

Nancy Pelosi wasted no time getting to her point in her interview Sunday on CNN. After some wishes about good health, host Jake Tapper asked the House Speaker if she agreed with President Trump’s musings that the national lockdown could end by Easter. Mrs. Pelosi might have disagreed on policy grounds—and later Sunday Mr. Trump extended the social distancing for another month—but instead she tore into Mr. Trump ...

“What the President—his denial at the beginning was deadly. His delaying of getting equipment to where—it continues—his delay in getting equipment to where it’s needed is deadly,” she said. “And now I think the best thing would be to do is to prevent more loss of life, rather than open things up,” referring to the possibility of easing social distancing.

“I don’t know what the purpose of that is. I don’t know what the scientists are saying to him. I don’t know what the scientists said to him. When did this President know about this and what did he know? What did he know and when did he know it?” the Speaker added, repeating the most famous line from the impeachment probe of Richard Nixon.

“That’s for an after-action review. But as the President fiddles, people are dying. And we have to—we just have to take every precaution.” First Nixon, then Nero.

Mr. Tapper wanted to make sure he heard that right: “But are you saying that his downplaying ultimately cost American lives?”

Mrs. Pelosi: “Yes, I am.”

The Speaker is a political professional who doesn’t pop off by accident. She clearly went into the interview with a plan to attack Mr. Trump at the start of a week when she knows that the infection and death tolls will mount.

Why go there? The cynical interpretation is that Mrs. Pelosi and her allies have seen the polls that show a majority of the public approves of Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Perhaps she wants to undermine that perception. She may also be sending a message to her left-wing that even if Mr. Trump wins re-election, she will be happy to investigate and impeach him again for his virus response.

Whatever the reason, this was an ugly note when the public wants signs of cooperation across the government—and when Mr. Trump had been praising Democrats in Congress for helping to pass the $2.2 trillion relief bill. He also refrained last week from attacking Mrs. Pelosi for delaying the relief bill to add non-virus earmarks like her $25 million for Washington’s Kennedy Center.

But Mr. Trump can never not respond to an attack and on Monday, after Mrs. Pelosi’s Sunday comments, he hit back in a tweet. That doesn’t help matters at this moment. But remember who cast the first coronavirus stone.

Online: https://www.wsj.com/

March 27

The New York Times on internet access:

America came face to face with the festering problem of digital inequality when most of the country responded to the coronavirus pandemic by shutting elementary and high schools that serve more than 50 million children.

Even before the shutdown, an estimated 12 million children were having difficulty completing routine homework assignments — not to mention writing research papers — because they lacked the home internet access their better-off classmates take for granted.

The so-called Homework Gap has taken on crippling dimensions now that closed school districts have been trying to maintain a semblance of instruction by putting teachers or course materials online. Internet-savvy school systems that serve connected populations appear to be moving ahead relatively smoothly with the new order of business. At the same time, some districts that lack infrastructure and serve heavily poor populations have given up altogether on remote learning. Still others are hesitant to pursue online instruction out of fear they might be hauled into court for offering course materials to which broadband-deprived families cannot gain access.

New York City, which has an estimated 300,000 students who lack internet-connected devices, is one of several districts rushing to acquire such devices. Still, the country needs a more systematic approach to this problem. Jessica Rosenworcel, a Federal Communications Commission member who has been proselytizing on this issue for several years, has rightly called on the F.C.C. to use funds earmarked for connecting schools and libraries to the internet to provide schools with internet hot spots that could be lent to students. Beyond that, some members of the Senate are urging the Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to set aside dedicated funding that would help to narrow the digital divide.

These suggestions address the exigencies of the moment. But the time has long passed for the country to open the door to the information age for communities that are locked out.

The daunting challenge of trying to get distance learning up and running comes as school districts are already struggling to feed students who rely on school breakfasts and lunches to stave off hunger. An analysis of policy statements by 46 districts that was released last Friday by the nonpartisan Center on Reinventing Public Education found considerable confusion among districts about how to deal with issues of technology and internet access. Only about a third of the districts said they were working to deliver laptops or tablets to students. Only five said they were delivering mobile phones or wireless hot spots to students, while more were encouraging parents to sign up for internet service. Few districts had comprehensive learning plans, and most were sharing links to “optional assignments on publicly available websites.” No district examined by the center had “a clear solution for ensuring that 100 percent of students have a … device and reliable, long-term access to the internet.”

This scramble is taking place in an atmosphere of uncertainty over how long the shutdown will last. Districts will need more money — and new expertise — if it turns out that a comprehensive online infrastructure is needed for the long haul.

The pandemic-driven changes undertaken by KIPP, the nation’s largest public charter school network, give a sense of how schools have had to adapt and how obstacles vary by region. The network is using its buses to deliver food to communities that need it. Where internet connectivity is poor, the network’s buses also drop off work packets that are later picked up for grading. The lack of internet access in poor and rural communities comes up again and again as educators talk about the pandemic ... closing the digital divide — and bringing all Americans into the information age — will require a momentous effort on the scale of the federal project that brought electricity to darkened regions of the country during the New Deal. And it will be similarly worth the effort.

Online: https://www.nytimes.com/

March 27

The Los Angles Times on halting abortions during the coronavirus pandemic:

As attempts to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic go, here’s a reprehensible one: the effort by some conservative states to halt abortions by arguing that they are “nonessential” medical procedures. Sounds ridiculous, but that’s the way officials in Ohio and Texas have interpreted emergency health orders intended to conserve medical equipment and gear needed for hospitals during the crisis.

It should be obvious that an abortion can’t be “postponed” until the pandemic clears up like a facelift or cataract surgery or routine dental work. If a woman doesn’t get get an abortion in a timely fashion, she can’t get it at all.

And that is, undoubtedly, what Texas and Ohio are hoping for. This is a chance for abortion opponents and state officials who are hostile to reproductive rights to advance their goal of making abortions difficult to access under the ruse of protecting coronavirus patients. (Mississippi’s governor said his state might follow suit.) That’s shameless. And it’s medically negligent.

Besides, the vast majority of abortions are not even performed in hospitals; they’re done in clinics. And providers there say they have reduced the use of protective equipment where possible.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists along with several other medical societies issued a statement warning that a delay of even several days in getting an abortion could make it inaccessible and could “profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”

Neither the Texas nor the Ohio emergency order restricts doctors to providing care only in a life-or-death situation. The Ohio Department of Health order says doctors may perform procedures to save someone from having a dysfunctional limb, for example. But Ohio Atty. Gen. Dave Yost, in a letter to two abortion providers, told them to stop performing surgical abortions in cases where the mother’s life is not at risk.

The Texas order from Gov. Greg Abbott instructs providers to postpone procedures not necessary to help someone at risk for “serious adverse medical consequences or death.” But Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton, in a news release on his website, specified that unnecessary procedures included routine dermatological, ophthalmological and dental procedures — as well as any type of abortion that isn’t life-saving.

If a woman can’t get an abortion, there is, indeed, a serious adverse medical consequence: She has a baby she did not intend or desire to have.

In Texas, where some providers are already turning away patients, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project filed suit this week asking for a temporary restraining order against using the health order to stop abortion procedures.

According to the suit, Texas’ interpretation of the health order is unconstitutional, singles out abortion providers from other medical services and causes patients irreparable harm.

Both Ohio and Texas have a history of passing baseless restrictions on abortion. That they would now use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to deny women their constitutional right to an abortion is perhaps not surprising, but it is certainly appalling.

Online: https://www.latimes.com/

March 27

The Chicago Tribune on weight gain during “stay-at-home” orders:

If you’re reading this at 11 a.m. and you already maxed out your recommended calories for the day, we feel you. Stay-home orders from state and local governments should come with refrigerator padlocks.

For the privileged employees who can work from home, those not working and for those still heading out the door for work, routines have been shredded. Schools, gyms and restaurants are closed. Hospitals and nursing homes forbid visitors. Vacations have been postponed. Weddings and funerals are on hold. Let’s face it. It’s a stressful time. We’re spending more time indoors, and the only thing getting a serious workout is the microwave.

We’re eating peanut butter by the spoonful, popcorn by the handful, ice cream by the bowlful. We’re eating over the kitchen sink, standing at the counter and yes, in bed. There are toast crumbs prickling flannel sheets across America right now as testament to dutifully obeying government restrictions.

We’re trying to cook healthier during this time of uncertainty. But can roasted chicken and vegetables be considered diet food if you eat four servings at a time? Isn’t it an act of patriotism to order takeout burgers and fries to keep local businesses afloat? Is it wrong in the privacy of your own home to enjoy a splash of wine at noon? We see you, Chicago.

Of course, the advice for controlling weight gain is to use common sense. Try to eat on your normal schedule. Plan your snacks and put them in containers. Move your work station around the house or apartment to avoid boredom. And set up shop away from your favorite cupboard ...

That’s not to say everyone dealing with stay-home mandates is finding their inner Homer Simpson. Plenty of people are using the time wisely by cleaning out drawers and painting bedrooms. Some people are sticking with those New Year’s resolutions and demonstrating discipline with food and exercise.

If you’re not one of them, it’s OK.

Alex Light, who writes a column for Hello! Magazine, reminds us weight gain is not a sign of failure.

“It’s never an indicator of failing, but especially not during these current circumstances,” she wrote earlier this week. “Weight fluctuations are an entirely normal response to our lives being very different right now.”

Kimberly Hershenson, a New York City therapist and eating disorder specialist, told the New York Post she’s seeing clients return to emotional eating habits due to stress.

“People binge because they feel everything is going wrong in their life, so who cares if they gain weight too?” she said.

If you’re one of them, cut yourself some slack. Post-pandemic, we’ll see the return of running clubs and crowded gyms. There will be plenty of time to shrink muffin tops and get back to sensible eating. In the meantime, if the scale in the bathroom is adding to your emotional blues, apply at least some of the advice nutritionists are offering. Get out and walk. Drink more water ...

And know that no matter what, summer is coming soon to Chicago. Morning sun soon will stream through your windows. Cafes and bike paths will reopen ... It’s coming. Have hope.

Online: https://www.chicagotribune.com/

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